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Interview body language

By JAMES COAKES Published 13th May 2015
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There are various figures given for the number of interviews per job offer and they seem to range between 5 and 10. What is clear is that a number of qualified and competent people are failing to get the jobs that they apply for because they make a bad impression at the interview.

Making a great impression actually starts before the interview takes place. Candidates are often observed crossing car parks, in lifts or in reception areas. The time before an interview can be stressful and habits and tics can be on display. Would you like to shake the hand of someone who you have just seen picking their nose, let alone offer them a job?

In 2015 an amusing situation, recorded in a Tweet, was shared more than 14,000 times. Matt Buckland, head of talent and recruiting for Forward Partners, Tweeted; 'Karma - the guy who pushed past me on the tube and then suggested I go F myself just arrived for his interview ... with me'. He did not hire the applicant, but made it clear in subsequent coverage that it was not because of the encounter. In fact he mentioned it to him and they both had a good laugh about it. However, there is no doubt that many would not be so forgiving.

What about when you get into the interview room? Some of the best advice almost seems too basic to give, and yet many will be familiar with the feeling that they had handled themselves better when it's too late.

The handshake is the first hurdle. How can this be difficult, when we shake hands with people every day? Get feedback from someone else; avoid crushing the interviewer's hand, if they have a different physical build you may have to adjust pressure. If your handshake is like a wet fish for goodness sake deal with it. If you are prone to sweaty palms when you are nervous there are various products that you can use that will dry them out. A sweaty handshake is extremely unpleasant and gives a bad impression.

When you are shaking hands angle your own palm so it is slightly under the palm of the interviewer so their hand has somewhere secure to land. This one technique is not widely known and it assures a good handshake. However, avoid too much of an angle or you will seem submissive. Again, practice makes perfect.

It is a very good idea to simulate an interview and film yourself so you can see what your body language looks like from an external perspective. Identify tics or gestures that you repeat. Chopping motions with hands should be minimal or you may find that you end the interview early. Avoid fiddling with jewelry as this will make you seem nervous.

Eye contact is one area that confuses many people. You do not want to stare, yet avoiding eye contact is a very bad habit. Generally speaking about 80% eye contact with regular blinking signifies that you are listening. Nodding appropriately in agreement can also build rapport along with use of eyebrows to signify, for example, that you are impressed. When we are the one doing the talking eye contact reduces significantly. Again, recording yourself in action will improve your performance.

Rehearse the start and finish of your interview; walking into the room and collecting any collateral that you bring and exiting. On the way in look out for obstacles that may cause you trouble on the way out, particularly hard to see steps. You will make a strong impression with a Norman Wisdom style departure but not the one that you want to leave the interviewer with.

Much of this advice seems obvious and basic. However, people are often not getting the interviews that they go for which offer jobs that they want and would be competent in. It is the obvious situations in life that we often do not prepare for adequately and approach with too much confidence. Job interviews are life changing moments, so make sure that you prepare and give it your best shot.

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